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Jakarta Post

Finally going home: Wuhan evacuees in Natuna to be released from quarantine on Saturday

  • Budi Sutrisno

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, February 14, 2020   /   07:33 am
Finally going home: Wuhan evacuees in Natuna to be released from quarantine on Saturday People wear protective facemasks while waiting at a boarding area at the Raden Sadjad airport in Ranai on Natuna Island in Riau Islands on Feb. 3. Evacuees from Wuhan in China, mostly students, landed on Feb. 2 on the remote island where they will be quarantined for 14 days. (AFP/Ricky Prakoso)

The government has said the 238 Indonesian citizens evacuated from Wuhan and surrounding areas of Hubei province, China, will be able to leave the quarantine area in Natuna, Riau Islands, if they remain healthy until the end the of the 14-day observation period on Saturday.

Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy said on Thursday the ministry and the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) had finalized plans to release the evacuees once the observation period ended.

“Following the two-week observation period, we will return them [to their respective hometowns] as they remain healthy,” Muhadjir said in a statement.

The government evacuated 238 Indonesian citizens from Wuhan and surrounding areas of Hubei on Feb. 2 following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. They were immediately airlifted to Natuna Island after landing at Hang Nadim Airport in Batam for quarantine.

The ministry’s public health improvement coordination undersecretary Agus Suprapto said a total of 47 officers and health workers in the quarantine area would also be sent back to their respective hometowns in 29 provinces across the country.

“Most of the evacuees are from East Java,” Agus said. “What needs to be asserted is all of them are in good health.”

Read also: Govt looks for free flights to transport quarantined citizens from Natuna to home towns

In response to calls for the observation period to be extended to 24 days, BNPB head Doni Monardo said he would continue to coordinate with the Health Ministry, which is coordinating with the World Health Organization (WHO).

Many have argued a 24-day quarantine would be more reliable than 14 days.

“As for now, the WHO still maintains there is a 14-day incubation period [for COVID-19]. However, this doesn’t rule out the possibility of changing the policy if there are other dynamics. We will continue coordinating with various agencies, including the BNPB, the health ministry and the military,” Doni said.

The former military general added that the Indonesian Military (TNI) would prepare four airplanes to depart from Natuna for Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in Jakarta between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.

The BNPB has booked commercial plane tickets for the evacuees to return to their hometowns.

“The government will also assist those who want to remain overnight in Jakarta by providing accommodation and transportation. This way, they will not face much trouble getting back home,” Doni said.

Read also: Indonesia readies plans for post-quarantine period: Health Ministry

The Executive Office of the President confirmed the observation period would end on Saturday.

“There will be no formal event upon the release of the evacuees,” the office’s undersecretary for political information and communication, Juri Ardiantoro, said on Thursday, as quoted by Antara news agency.

Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto said the evacuees’ relatives would also be allowed to pick them up in Natuna.

TNI commander Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto and National Police chief Gen. Idham Azis visited residents of Kampung Tua Penagi and Kampung Pering Bandarsyah in Natuna on Thursday.

Apart from inspecting health posts in the area, they also provided basic aid to residents living around the quarantine area on the island. Hadi said residents near the quarantine area, located at the hangar of the Raden Sadjad Airport in Natuna, were in good health.

“We’d also like to motivate soldiers working on the humanitarian mission,” Hadi said. (hol)